Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From Pity to Power ...

I could write a million books about uncertainty and disenfranchisement. I could tell tales of doubt and internal agony. But what does that accomplish, really, at the end of the day? Where does that leave me, and the people who read and witness these sorry chronicles?

And is it not my due to my world to not encumber it with more sad tales of woebeme recollections, and tell stories of triumph, growth, development, and advancement? Isn't it always time for a raise and a rise??

No one speaks for me. I speak for myself. And I WILL tell a better story!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Musings ...

Truth? Sometimes I feel like I'm not living - like I'm here, but I'm not here at all. Before you jump to the bottom of the post, hit comment and start to type your 2000-word response encouraging me to hang on and not give up, let me explain. I am hanging on. I'm not giving up. Frankly, that's not what this post is about. It's about something infinitely more essential  - it's about living while alive ... and the freedom a body is supposed to have to do it! It's about finding purpose in the course of one's existence and pursuing that purpose with singleness of mind, heart and spirit, and being liberated to do so!

My particular concern has always been for the YOUTH in Caribbean nations - that demographic which is supposed to be representative of our nations' individual and collective futures ... the statistics are far from impressive. Apart from the spate of senseless murders targetting children and youth in this country, there are the scores of unemployed, undermotivated and uneducated youth who just feel and look hopeless.

In some ways, I'm like everybody else - I'm here. I'm sitting here in this chair in this large edifice typing at this desktop computer. You can see me, a touch would startle me, you can probably smell me (hopefully my cologne, lol) because I'm REAL. I'm alive.

So what am I getting at? What's eating me up? The thought that despite my obvious physical existence, I'm not as present as I'd like to be. See, my mind ... how do I put this?? My mind is not settled here, even if my body is. It's still stretching and reaching for other places, other avenues, other destinations.

And this has been the story of my life - a constant pursuit of something ... higher? Nobler? Better? I'm always looking to the next step - the next big thing. I don't think that I've ever really settled anywhere. I watched Julia Roberts in 'Eat, Pray, Love' and laughed out loud because her character reminds me so much of me (minus the actually going anywhere part). But I always want to. Go somewhere. Be somewhere else. In whatever sense you read that, it's probably true.

Some people have tanks that are fuelled by the events of their past. Others run on the exhilaration of being fully entrenched in the present. I run on future - the thing and time that is yet to be. And I'm always reaching for it, looking to it ... Now don't get me wrong. I have this gift of throwing myself so fully into whatever I'm doing that sometimes it seems like that's all there is to me. But. The part of me that never dies is the part that reaches out to the next thing - whatever the thing might be - the next experience, the next adventure, the next story.

Let us not look back in anger. Or forward in fear. But around in awareness.
That's one of my favourite James Thurber quotes. I've memorised it since I was in high school. But the other day, I was reading through my book of quotes, going over my vision document (yes, I actually have one), and it hit me: when do you start looking around in awareness? The minute you take your eyes from before you or behind you and direct them to the spot in which your feet are planted; the minute your mind becomes actively engaged in your present ... when you stop fading out the voices you'd rather not hear and start listening to their every inflection. When you start looking people in the eyes and seeing the whole person, not just the job title, description and rank. When you start living not just as you are, but as you ought to be because that is what matters.

Open eyes. Open mind. Open arms. Open life. And that's what I've been doing since then: Coming alive.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Jamaica's NEET story?

August 12 was celebrated as international youth day. Not that very many Jamaican youth would know. Or care. To them, it would be just another day, because unless they had been involved in something like acing GSATs, getting 10 CSEC subjects, or winning Olympic gold medals, they'd probably feel like the country doesn't care very much about them anyway ... probably.

And that's probably the way British youth felt, too, when they decided to take to the streets in what was intended to be a peaceful protest over the police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan earlier this month. Twelve hours later, there was mayhem and madness - looting, burning ... a full-fledged riot was on. And it was youth at the helm.

While there is widespread consensus on what happened during the riots, divergent views abound as to why it happened. Was it the result of British morality's demise? Was it the inevitable outworking of  selfishness groomed in this 'me-first' generation? Was it just a bunch of black Brit opportunists spreading their nihilistic culture (ask David Starkey about that)? Or were the rioters desperate, frustrated, unemployed and dispossessed youth finally getting their nation's attention?

Well, what if they were the latter?

In a Guardian article titled 'Looting Fuelled By Social Exclusion', Alexandra Topping quoted Professor John Pitts, youth culture expert, as saying that most of the rioters were from "low-income, high-unemployment estates" without "legitimate futures". He said, "Much of this was opportunism but in the middle of it there is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose."

The Washington Post editorial of August 9 noted that "This is becoming a year of rebellion by the dispossessed." Their portentous warning: "At a time of economic disruption, no country is immune from such upheaval." No country. Especially not Jamaica.

The BBC identified 18 to 24-year-old English youth who are not in employment, education or training as NEET (capitalised for emphasis). Pointing out that 18.4% of England's youth population is in that predicament, the news service identified several contributing factors: cutbacks in career services, the discontinuation of the Education Maintenance Allowance, lessening youth apprenticeships, and a general disregard for the growing levels of disempowerment, dissatisfaction and unemployment among youth.

This is where it gets interesting, because over the years, Jamaica has seen a growing discontent among its own youth population. The Gleaner's editorial of August 16 drew parallels between Britain's situation and ours, noting that nearly 60 per cent of Jamaicans 15-29 are either unemployed or out of the workforce altogether: "That is nearly 400,000 young people. Perhaps 100,000 youth of school age are 'unattached' - they are not in school, not engaged in other forms of training, nor have jobs". That's our NEET.

The editorial went on to note that "it is largely from this group of jobless and largely unemployable youth that come the perpetrators of so much antisocial behaviour and who commit, or are victims of, 80 per cent of the country's murders". That's our NEET's story. They're not rioting yet, but they are well on their way. We'd do well to heed Gleaner's closing warning:

"If you hear a ticking, it may just be a time bomb among these drifting, disenchanted youth. The urgent task for policymakers is to find a way to defuse it."

Monday, August 15, 2011

David Starkey's Big Booboo

"The whites have become black ... a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion ..." Ooh, so that's what black culture is!

The response gives food for thought ...

And yet another thought-provoking response in the Gleaner's editorial of Sept 5.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Emancipendence Was Supposed To Mean ...

Today, August 1, is Emancipation Day for Jamaica. Today we celebrate being 'set free, especially from legal, social, or political restrictions' (according to some online dictionary). Funny how this should crop up at a time when people are still debating whether or not we'd be better off as a British colony. Funny how on this most public of Caribbean holidays, we're still having trouble agreeing on the safety/desirability of regional airline carriers, our governments still bicker and frequently snub each other, and our nations are, by and large, wholesalely underdeveloped.

But here we are - we the emancipated.

August 6 will be Independence Day. A day on which we will celebrate 'the fact or sate of being free from outside control; self-governing; not depending on the authority of another' (according to the dictionary on my desktop). Never mind that we're still unable to adequately support the 2.5 million people on this little rock; never mind that more than half of our national resources and key industries have been sold to foreign entities; never mind the unemployment, illiteracy, crime, violence and general sense of frustration, deprivation and fear that punctuates Jamaican life.

Here we are. We the independent.

We claim it proudly. Because, like the antsy teenager who couldn't wait to leave her parent's home and stake her lot in the world, Jamaica is still lost in the reverie of adolescent pride - that first job, that first car ... that first 'real' kiss. But Jamaica is no teenager. Or young adult. Or even in midlife (although we have a crisis).  We say we're 50, but that's not true either. Long before Britain decided to cut us loose, we were alive as a nation, plotting and planning our 'escape', dreaming of the day when we would finally be free. We watched them misuse, abuse, mismanage and misdirect. We saw the mistakes they made. Our minds didn't click into motion when Britain said, "We don't want you anymore." We were alive long before that. We're much older than 50. And it's time we started acting like it!

Emancipation? Independence? They are historical processes our nation went through - stages in our metamorphosis, aspects of our becoming ... . We did not begin to exist with these processes (as some seem to believe). So when we celebrate these holidays, when we claim these days as times to look back to our roots and assess our progress, I urge us to own our age - our real age - to see the full, open,  barefaced truth of just how much/little has been accomplished.

Ah, yes. Here we are. We the emancipated. We the independent. A nation in denial of its age in attempt to assuage its ego? Happy Emancipendence to all.